Here I am on the brink of thirty and still, at least every few months, I have one of those weeks (or two) where I simply cannot adult. I am struck with a sudden incapacity to prepare a meal, put away the washing or water the plants and the feeling of failure that follows lulls me into a rut.
More often than not it’s because I find myself, at the tail-end of the month, counting my pennies and hiding away from temptations to spend, or perhaps I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and inevitably, burn out, at which point it’s necessary to hibernate for my own sanity. Often it’s a combination of both, but equally, sometimes reasons are hard to come by.
It becomes apparent over the course of a few days that the dishes have piled up, that the kitchen bin is starting to pong, that I have run out of clean pants. I notice these things, but the response, whatever chemical reaction that usually happens (more so in a woman’s brain than in a man’s, from what I’ve witnessed) to make me solve these domestic quandaries, fails. Nothing happens. I retreat to the sofa and whatever trash TV I’m indulging in, and plead ignorance. I suspect I’m not alone in occasionally abandoning all pretence of being a grown up, I know it’s perfectly normal to have a lazy spell when it comes to the life admin we all endure but it’s the knock-on effects which become more problematic for me.
I am no domestic goddess but I have come to terms with the fact, over several years of trial and error, that I do need a basic level of orderliness to preserve my tidy home, tidy mind tendencies. I don’t ask for much – coffee table cleared of debris, coats on hooks rather than strewn over the back of the sofa, dirty dishes at least stacked into some kind of manageable task for tomorrow – little things which have a big impact. But when they slide too far, when things begin to pile up, it becomes a downward spiral.
I stop eating right, I barely read, I don’t write. My commute becomes such a drudgery that I just go from work to the sofa to bed to work in an endless cycle of grey days. I don’t cook or pack lunches and rack up more expense as a result. I sleep badly, I get lethargic, disillusioned with work, restless and it can be tough to break the cycle. But luckily I know the warning signs and when I fail to spot them, my other half doesn’t. When he arrives home on a Thursday night to find me in a fog he asks a simple question that kicks me into action more than any blunt “What’s wrong?” every could – “What have you been reading this week?”
So what to do when you need to shake off the fog and practice good adulthood? Allow me to share my top tips to help you slow down, and make it happen:
1. Roast a chicken
Never underestimate the incredible sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency that can be garnered from the simple task of roasting a chicken. It is an uncomplicated task, cheaply achieved (if you’re willing to disregard the ethical shame for a moment) that will feed your belly for two to three meals, and your spirit for several days after that. Simply smear the bird with oil, butter or goose fat if you have some hanging around, season with salt and pepper and pop it in the oven with some roasties for about 20 minutes per 500g plus another half hour for good measure. Nigella also suggests sticking half a lemon up the bird’s bum which, even if it does not impact the flavour much, will keep the chicken moist and fill your kitchen with a beautiful citrus aroma.
“You could probably get through life without knowing how to roast a chicken, but the question is, would you want to?”
Do not shy away from carving the chicken. Get your hands dirty and pick that carcass clean, there is a hands-on satisfaction to be had from it and you’ll thank yourself later.
Eat the freshly cooked chicken with roasties and gravy in the first instance, then enjoy the cold meat in sandwiches with a little salt and pepper and a slather of mayo. Even if you achieve nothing else today, you’ll have fed yourself beyond a slap up meal.
2. Tune in to Radio 4
I may well be approaching my thirtieth birthday but I’ve long been prematurely middle-aged and a proud listener of Radio 4, or more accurately, of Radio 4 podcasts, for several years now. Woman’s Hour never fails to draw me back into the world, sparking thoughts, ideas and connections with those beyond the magnolia walls of my rented home.
The Books and Authors podcast is another wonderful way to spend half an hour, stirring up interest and enthusiasm in something beyond my own gloom, but even just having the station on in the background is a wonderful way to calm the mind. There is something comforting in the clipped tones of Radio 4 presenters, something ironically uplifting in their serious discussions of world news. Perhaps it puts things in perspective, I’m sure that hearing survival stories from war zones can inspire you to count yourself lucky and empty the damn washing machine. Or perhaps it’s just the slow, considered pace of conversation. Radio 4 feels grown up, maybe it’s just a case of faking it until you can make it. Whatever it is, it works.
3. Buy a newspaper
Perhaps for many of the same reasons, I find a great deal of comfort among the broadsheets of a Sunday paper. It’s something tangible you can take hold of, there’s a reassuring, habitual comfort in the act of licking a fingertip, turning the pages, allowing your eyes to drift from one headline to another. The content may not be as pleasant or even interesting, but it’s wonderfully analogue.
I’ve read so much recently about embracing tech, finding digital solutions to life’s little problems but in this case I am happily lodged in the previous century. When you buy a newspaper, you need to give yourself the time to sit down and read it. I like to feel the paper, to see the ink, to sit amid a nest of newspaper and magazines and ponder over the crossword. And there’s one more thing…
4. And make a pot of tea
Not just a mug, a pot. Boil the kettle, wet the pot and choose your poison – breakfast tea, peppermint, chai, something fruity perhaps? Load a tray with pot, mugs, milk jug, biscuits or perhaps some cheese. Sit down with your paper, a good book or some wholesome, binge-worthy telly such as Who do you think you are, Walks with my dog or my personal favourites Gardeners World or Springwatch. Like I said, prematurely middle-aged and proud of it.
5. Get baking
Banana bread is my favourite though because it not only provides a tasty treat which can legitimately be eaten at breakfast, but also solves the problem of those ugly brown bananas you swore you’d eat instead of a third bag of crisps, and what can be more adult than reducing food waste?
So grease up a tin, whack the oven to 170, and let’s get started. Assuming that you have three bananas mushed (but vary your measurements otherwise), melt 125g of butter, 150g caster sugar and a slash or three of vanilla extract in a pan. Once off the heat, mix in your banana mush, mix well, add an egg, mix well, and then stir in 190g of self raising flour and about 50ml of milk.
The weight of chocolate chips is usually determined by how much you actually have in the cupboard at that time, but if you are buying in preparation I suggest somewhere between 100 – 250g. I also suggest adding nuts or seeds if you want to convince yourself that this can be eaten for breakfast. Bake for 45 minutes or until a tactically placed skewer comes out clean. Enjoy immediately.